A recurring column exploring various statistics related to sexual wellness, mental health, and substance use at Colorado College, brought to you in collaboration with the Wellness Resource Center.
By MONTANA BASS
This is the lifetime cost of rape per victim in the United States, according to a 2017 study conducted by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention and released in the American Journal for Preventive Medicine. Rape is the most expensive crime in terms of overall cost to the victim.
These costs fell into the categories of short and long-term physical and mental health treatment, lost work productivity, criminal justice proceedings, and property loss or damage. Not included, according to the CDC, are a “monetized version of the victims’ cost and suffering.” This staggering number is simply direct financial loss, and does not attempt to put a price on lived experience.
This study is significant because it calculates the average cost for victims over a course of an entire lifetime. Rape as the most costly crime, highlights the fact that sexual trauma can continue to significantly impact victims’ lives and impede their ability to thrive long after the traumatic event. Representing sexual violence through financial terms may seem to trivialize the emotional component, but it also illuminates repercussions that are not often recognized.
For example, an extremely common reaction to sexual trauma is the subsequent avoidance of triggering or highly-stimulating situations. A survivor in a particularly high-pressure academic or career track, such as medicine or law, or a highly interpersonal career track, such as public relations or human services, may have trouble engaging in their day-to-day lives as they did before the traumatic event. In the eyes of peers or supervisors who may not understand its cause, this difficulty can be perceived as laziness, carelessness, or general inefficacy.
As the National Sexual Violence Resource Center points out, sexual violence is extremely costly to society as a whole, not only to its victims. Preventing sexual violence, therefore, actively creates a more resilient and financially secure community. Supporting survivors is a key component of preventing future sexual violence and mitigating its impacts after the fact.
Practicing trauma-informed care and creating trauma-informed communities would facilitate healing among survivors and promote their ability to thrive, ultimately reducing the cost — financial and otherwise — of sexual violence on the lives of survivors and their communities. Being trauma-informed simply entails understanding that most people have experienced various forms of trauma in their lifetimes and approaching them from this perspective.
At Colorado College, we have many avenues of support for survivors of sexual violence that can facilitate their ability to thrive on campus. Campus confidential resources such as the Sexual Assualt Response Coordinator, Counseling Center, and the Gender and Identity Specialist are able to work with students to help make supportive changes — for example, getting extensions on classwork, changing dorms, or other modifications a survivor feels necessary — whether or not the survivor decides to pursue Title IX reporting options. In fact, confidential resources can help facilitate these changes for survivors without disclosing information to professors, Residential Advisors, and others, which is why confidential resources are necessary when changes made are consistent with survivors’ wishes.
As April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, there will be many opportunities for survivors to find support and healing, and for supporters of survivors to find resources and learn more about what they can do as allies. Check out the Wellness Resource Center’s Facebook page to learn more about what is going on, and attend events that suit your needs.